Seated on the northeastern end of Florida, Jacksonville enjoys an idyllic location next to the Atlantic Ocean that grants the city a whopping 22 miles (35 km) of beach real estate. Jax, as the locals refer to it, is an eclectic city with an unmistakable southern charm and a touch of Floridian quirkiness.
Since this is a beach haven, the beachside allure is certainly the main reason why visitors love Jacksonville. However, there are numerous other things to do. This ultimate travel guide to Jacksonville has everything that a traveler would need to know about Florida’s most populous city, from the best time to visit, to the best beaches and everything in between.
Best Time To Visit Jacksonville
A view of the Jacksonville downtown area
There are two groups of crowds that troop to Jacksonville at different times: the spring breakers in March and the summer crowds from June to August.
These crowds fill up the beaches and hotel rooms, pushing prices up. It’s also difficult to fully enjoy the beauty of Jacksonville when the beaches are full.
So, the best times to visit Jacksonville are in April and May, right after the spring breakers have left and just before the summer vacationers arrive.
The autumn months from September to November are also good times to visit since the summer crowds have left, prices have dropped, and the weather is still pleasant.
Best Ways To Get Around Jacksonville
Jacksonville JTA skyway train
Jacksonville is a large city, so the most convenient way to get around is by car. Here’s a look at the different options for traveling in Jacksonville, that tourists have.
This is the best way to get around Jacksonville because it gives travelers the freedom to visit most of the city. Sadly, because this is a populous city, there’s always going to be heavy traffic, especially on roads leading to the beach.
Still, getting a car is more convenient than using the public transport options, which don’t operate all day, every day.
This option is best for travelers who are on a tight budget. Thankfully, Jacksonville has several public transport options operated by the Jacksonville Transport Authority (JTA), with the lowest bus fare costing $1.75.
There’s the Skyway train, which ferries people for free within the downtown area. Tourists exploring downtown Jacksonville can take advantage of the Skyway, which runs from 6 am to 9 pm, Mondays to Fridays.
JTA also operates buses from downtown to the greater Jacksonville area. Travelers can buy single-ride or multi-day tickets, and this is done via the MyJTA mobile app.
Travelers can also opt to buy the STAR card, which offers unlimited rides for a specific period once loaded. For instance, for 7 days of unlimited rides, travelers will pay $20.
Uber and Lyft cabs are common in Jacksonville and are reliable ways to get around Jacksonville. However, travelers who intend to move longer distances are likely to be put off by their higher prices. These are best for shorter trips.
Where To Eat in Jacksonville
Breakfast: Maple Street Biscuit Company
Waffles with blueberries, strawberries, and whipped cream.
Maple Street Biscuit Company opens every day at 7 am, just in time for the breakfast crowd. Patrons troop to this joint to enjoy their trademark delectable biscuit sandwiches that are made fresh every day.
They also serve yummy waffles and classic breakfast food like bacon and eggs. This is one of the best breakfast places in Jacksonville.
- Address: 2004 San Marco Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32207-3214
- Opening hours: 7 am – 2 pm (daily)
- Average price: $5.50
Lunch: Julington Creek Fish Camp
Eating a beautiful salmon meal with lemon and white wine
Julington Creek Fish Camp offers visitors a meal with a view thanks to its waterside location. Their claim to fame is their seafood, which they have given a southern twist.
For instance, there’s a teriyaki-glazed salmon burger that would make for a filling lunch meal. Julington also serves pan-seared cod, deviled crab, and scallops among other dishes.
Their dessert menu is also worth trying out.
- Address: 12760 San Jose Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32223, United States
- Opening hours: Sun – Thu: 11 am – 9 pm; Fri & Sat: 11 am – 10 pm
- Average price: $30
Dinner: J. Alexander’s Restaurant
A fresh and tasty cheeseburger
J. Alexander’s Restaurant is found in multiple locations across the US, with Jacksonville as one of these places. Located along Bistro Dr, this restaurant specializes in American fare, like Baby Back ribs, steak burgers, and classic cheeseburgers.
There’s also a variety of seafood options ranging from grilled salmon to shrimp.
- Address: 10296 Bistro Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32246, United States
- Opening hours: Sun – Thu: 11 am – 9 pm; Fri & Sat: 11 am – 10 pm
- Average price: $40
Drinks: The Volstead
Cocktail options at a bar
The Volstead bears a vibe that’s similar to that of speakeasies of the Prohibition era. This spot has a vast drinks menu; their cocktails are among the most popular.
In fact, this bar has about 12 signature cocktails from which one can choose. They also serve beers and wines, as well as spirits.
- Address: 115 W Adams St, Jacksonville, FL 32202, United States
- Opening hours: Mon – Thu: 4 pm – 12 am; Fri & Sat: 4 pm – 2 am; Sun: 7 pm – 12 am
- Average price: Moderately priced
Top Things To Do In Jacksonville, Florida
Head to the beach
Jacksonville Beach, Florida
There’s no point visiting Jacksonville and skipping the beaches. This city has numerous beaches with excellent views of the Atlantic. For instance, Jacksonville Beach is a beautiful option, and it’s known as now of the cheapest vacation spots in Florida.
This should be at the top of any visitor’s list. But, which beach should one visit? There’s a more in-depth list later in this article, of the best beaches in Jacksonville.
For a bit more seclusion, visitors can travel to Amelia Island, which is about a 40-minute drive from downtown Jacksonville. Here, the beaches are more pristine, with the ambiance of a tropical island.
Visit the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
Rhino at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
Covering about 122 acres, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens hosts more than 2000 animal species and thousands of plant species.
Visitors get to see animals from all over the world, including several snake species, big cats like the jaguar and cheetah, as well as the African elephant among other fascinating creatures.
Tourists can also explore the gardens and learn about the different plants that are conserved there.
Shop at St Johns Town Center
Urban Outfitters in St Johns Town Center
This shopping outlet has close to 200 stores, ranging from popular brand stores to smaller retailers. There’s something for everyone’s budget; shoppers with looser purse strings can head to Louis Vuitton or Michael Kors while those on a shoestring budget can shop at Dollar Tree.
St Johns Town Center is also home to over 20 eateries like J. Alexander’s, Starbucks, and The Cheesecake Factory.
Explore the Tree Hill Nature Center
Tree Hill Nature Center, Jacksonville, Florida
Tourists who enjoy spending time in nature are drawn to the Tree Hill Nature Center, a serene nature reserve found just 10 minutes from Jacksonville downtown. This nature center is home to a natural history museum as well as several animal species.
However, the center is best known for its nature trails, with difficulty levels ranging from easy to intermediate. The longest trail, Longleaf Pine, is 2620 ft (798 meters) long, and it cuts through hardwoods and Longleaf pines.
Tour the Museum of Science and History
Museum of Science and History, Jacksonville, Florida
This is a great destination for a family outing, with different things to do for visitors of all ages. There’s an interactive area for kids under 5 years, which they call the Kidspace.
The museum also has a planetarium, known as Brian-Gooding Planetarium.
The Museum of Science and History has different programs on science, nature, and even space, which are run on Mondays and Thursdays to Sundays.
5 Best Beaches in Jacksonville
Ponte Vedra Beach, Jacksonville, Florida.
Jacksonville has some of the most beautiful beaches on the East Coast. Here are just five of them.
This is a small mile-long beach that stacks up against the larger beaches in Jacksonville. It’s often quiet with a laid-back appeal. Neptune Beach is close to restaurants and shopping outlets like Beaches Town Center.
Found right next to Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach is like the former’s elder sibling, with a rich history linked to the Native Americans. Atlantic Beach is more boisterous than Neptune, with opportunities for fun activities like water sports or even golfing.
Ponte Vedra Beach
Ponte Vedra is known for its golfing facilities that host global championships. However, those who aren’t golfers also love coming here for its pristine beauty that’s marked by tall sand dunes.
Found on Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach is removed from the hubbub of Jacksonville’s downtown area, offering an ideal spot for families to enjoy a day out. Snorkeling is a popular activity here, as well as mini-golf and skating at the beach parks.
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
This is a vast 450-acre oceanfront park, with stunning beach real estate plus hiking trails. In fact, the park has a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) beach, which is certainly the hallmark of Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park.
Guide To Popular Neighborhoods In Jacksonville
San Marco, Jacksonville, Florida
Baymeadows is just 11 miles (17 km) from downtown Jacksonville and a half-hour drive from Jacksonville International Airport. It’s considered one of the safest neighborhoods making it an ideal area to stay.
This is a high-end neighborhood found about 12 miles (19 km) from the downtown area, and just 10 miles (16 km) from Ponte Vedra Beach and Jacksonville Beach. There are dozens of recreational facilities in the area, including golf courses and parks.
Deercreek is a family-oriented neighborhood located near parks, sports facilities, and shopping outlets. It’s also a 20-minute drive to Ponte Vedra Beach, making it a good choice for visitors.
San Marco sits right next to the St Johns River, so there are numerous riverfront homes available. This area also boasts bars, restaurants, and art galleries, among other amenities.
Located south of Jacksonville’s downtown area, Mandarin also sits beside the St Johns River. However, Mandarin is slightly more laid back than San Marco, with more parks and country clubs in the area.
Where To Stay In Jacksonville
This hotel is found in the Baymeadows neighborhood, just a 10-minute drive from the downtown area and 18 miles (29 km) from Jacksonville International Airport. Best Western Premier is also close to several parks, including Lovelace Park and Wurn Park.
- Address: 4700 Salisbury Rd, Jacksonville, 32256, United States
- Amenities: swimming pool, fitness center, kitchen, free Wi-Fi
- Price: From $130
Jacksonville’s Residence Inn by Marriott doesn’t let the brand down, offering top-level hospitality in the studio and one-bedroom accommodations. Each room has its own kitchen area with all the necessary appliances.
Those who say here get to enjoy close proximity to Jackson Beach and Pone Vedra Beach.
- Address: 4905 San Pablo Road South, Jacksonville, 32224, United States
- Amenities: Full kitchen, swimming pool, free Wi-Fi, fitness center, picnic area, bbq facilities.
- Price: $220
This vacation rental is a short stroll to the beach, the perfect choice for those who wish to hang around the ocean. The guest house sits in a stunning compound lined with palm trees.
It has one bedroom and can host up to four guests. There’s a charming living area and a mini kitchen.
- Address: Jacksonville Beach, Florida
- Amenities: Mini kitchen, Wi-Fi, air conditioning, BBQ facilities, fire pit.
- Price: From $198
Tips To Know
Sunset in Jacksonville FL
Jacksonville hosts a variety of festivals and sports events throughout the year, which are worth experiencing. Here are some of the main ones;
- From the end of March to the first week of April, Jacksonville hosts a 3-day music festival known as Springing the Blues.
- November carries PorchFest, a music festival in which performances are held on front porches of homes in Historic Springfield.
- Every July, Jacksonville hosts the Kingfish Tournament, a fishing competition, a boat display, and a food festival.
Every November, kids under 12 are allowed to enter some of Jacksonville’s attractions for free. These include the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Museum of Science and History, among others.
Football lovers can check out the Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games at the TIAA Bank Field.
For Visitors who are passing by, Jacksonville makes for a breathtaking ocean-side road trip in the summer.
How To Spend The Perfect Day In Jacksonville
The perfect day should involve a lot of beach visits. So, the day should start with a stroll along Jacksonville Beach followed by breakfast at one of the beachside cafés. Then, head to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens to check out the animals before a picnic lunch in the gardens.
The afternoon can be spent exploring Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park before ending the day with dinner and drinks at a nearby beachfront restaurant.
Q: Is it worth visiting Jacksonville Florida?
Yes, it’s worth visiting Jacksonville to experience the pleasant weather and stunning East Coast beaches.
Q: What is Jacksonville most known for?
Jacksonville is most known for its vast beach real estate, which is about 850 square miles (2200 square kilometers) of coastline. It’s also near tourist spots like St. Augustine.
Q: Is Jacksonville a fun city?
Absolutely, Jacksonville is a fun city that’s a popular spring break destination, just like Florida hotspot Miami. Its beaches are excellent party spots and the city hosts several festivals and events all year round.